FRONT PAGE NEWS is the debut novel from former Australian journalist Katie Rowney. From the lighter, intended as humour side of crime fiction, cadet journalist Stacey McCallaghan has her first job in the small country town of Toomey working on the local newspaper. Struggling with the grind of making front page news out of the daily goings on in a small town, it's almost like the first dead body is heaven sent for McCallaghan's journalistic ambitions.
The hassle, as always with humour, is that it's only going to work for some readers. Needless to say this reader won't be at all surprised if fellow country dwellers in particular find plenty to annoy about McCallaghan's attitude, and some of the attempts at humour in the book. Enough to make some very clunky sentence construction in the earlier part of the book, and the incomprehensible use of "trunk" when it's a car boot grate to the point of dental endangering.
There's also something equally teeth grindingly annoying about a 22 year old who shows up, thinking she can take it up to the local cops, whilst constantly low-level whinging about the day to day life of the town that's providing her with a start in her career. How many times do we have to be told that as a cadet journalist you don't get paid much, and how poor the life choices of her fellow cadet / neighbour are ... But obviously, this is an aspect of that humour component that again, is going to work much better for some readers than others.
Once you get over the worst of the jabs and digs at everything and everybody, and the actual plot gets moving, FRONT PAGE NEWS is a much better book, with the coincidences and clues laid out for readers to follow. It is also very hefty on the will they / won't they romance side of things, with the obvious opposites attracting element writ large from their first encounter.
Overall however, this reader struggled to stay with this book. The clunkiness of some of the sentence construction, along with that arch, smart-arsey type of tone grated badly. The potential of threat never quite ramps up enough, with the slight surprise that McCallaghan ends up as a target of suspicion, when she seemed to fit the mould of likely victim to a tee. Whilst the plot, when it did sort of drag itself out into the open was better than early indications, there's not a lot that's particularly surprising about the resolution overall.